Oil. I never thought in my life that I would care so much about oil. Animal or vegetable, organic or refined, it captures my interest. And for what reason? Making soap, of course! Now, I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of oils and enjoy using many of them and experimenting with them in soap and other products. Do you?
Oil choices and percentages play a major part in making good soap and a soapmaker who wants to be knowledgeable simply cannot remain ignorant of each oil they use and its properties. Certainly, it’s possible to make soap out of 100% coconut oil or 100% olive oil, and it is common. In fact, some of the world’s most famous soaps are 100% olive oil. Yet, to my way of thinking, a truly wonderful bar comes from a mix of oils, each with properties that contribute to a bar that is moisturizing, cleans well without stripping the skin, lathers up well, and is hard enough to last in the tub or shower.
How do we find out which oils do what for soap? Research and experimentation is the answer. Begin with an established formula and tweak the oils until you reach what for you, is the perfect soap. It’s part of the process for becoming a confident soapmaker. Hint: recipes that you run across calling for a can of this and a cup of that are best ignored. Can sizes may change over time, so if it doesn’t state what that can size is by weight, move on. Cup and other types of non-weighed measurements are also potential problems. Why? Because even cup measurements from cup to cup can vary, so a cup of shortening might not weigh eight ounces, and lye calculations are based on the weight of each oil. You could potentially end up with either a very soft batch or a lye-heavy one. Soap isn’t as forgiving as cooking and the ingredients were meant to be weighed out.
But what about you? Perhaps you have a formula that you have used for years and you’re very happy with it, so you see no need to waste time or money on changing it. You admit that you know just so much about each oil that goes into your soap, but you do know how to produce a consistent product from batch to batch.
Where product production is concerned, I understand the need for a consistent formula, but couldn’t exist without my r&d (research and development) time, but that may not be true for all.
Weigh in (no pun intended). Are you an experimenter (mad scientist) type or a tried-and-true soap/bath and body maker?
Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.
I was thinking recently about all the types of soapmakers and candlemakers out there.
Some like to keep things as basic and natural as possible. In fact, if it were possible to make soap without lye, these individuals would do it. These candlemakers use natural waxes as opposed to using paraffin wax.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, we know soapmakers who are concerned only with the process or the art of soapmaking and are willing to use whatever resources are at their disposal to make the soap they love. The same is true for some chandlers whose main goal is either production or beauty. It’s not that this group of crafters don’t care if their products are safe, they just believe that the legal ingredients they use are safe for their customers so they are free to use them as they desire.
Most of us, however, fall somewhere between the two extremes. Some of us insist on organic carrier oils, but scent with fragrance oils. Others use only essential oils, but use synthetic or nature identical colorants. Still others use no soy or no animal products or no palm oil. Moreover, good share of cosmetic makers are searching for effective natural preservatives.
The choices are nearly limitless and may cause confusion for both newbies and the experienced alike. What’s really natural or acceptable? How much not-so-natural is acceptable? If I make products without regard to their naturalness or acceptability to various groups, are my products inferior? Add to that other concerns such as moral ones or sustainabililty and you have an entirely new set of questions.
With this vast array, we might believe that life would be much easier if we weren’t offered so many possibilities. What does it gain us? Quite a bit, actually. First of all, it causes us to do research, the result being more knowledgeable artisans. Secondly, it provides us with niche markets. We can sell to vegans or vegetarians, to those looking for a more natural way of life, customers who avoid certain groups of ingredients or those who are seeking products they like the looks, scent, and performance of. It really does take all kinds!
Where in this wide spectrum do you find yourself?
Until next time, may you happily wade in bubbles & wax.
Have you ever attended a gathering or conference of soap and/or candlemakers?
I have. In fact, I recently returned from a state gathering, where my fellow soapers, chandlers and I had a marvelous time. We talked soap, learned new techniques, shared a delicious lunch, bought from each other’s garage sales, and generally made it a great day for soapers. It’s an event I look forward to each year.
Why do I value this event so much? I can think of many reasons. I get to see the friends I’ve made at previous gatherings so we can we catch up on our respective lives. I get to meet new people and get their perspectives. We get to talk soap! It’s not every day for me that I find someone who appreciates and understands this craft as I do, and I’m sure the same is true for the other attendees.
In addition to these advantages, I have the opportunity to sell off my extras or my “I-bought-this-and-can’t-remember-what-to-do-with-it” items, along with buying others’ items in the same categories. I have the opportunity to dream big with the raffle prizes, and even to see the wonderful products that our vendor sponsors have sent for our doorprizes and goody bags. I learn new techniques in the demos that other members kindly provide.
What about you? Have you ever attended any kind of soap/candle gathering? From lunch with a few other devotees to the annual HSMG Conference, tell us where you’ve been and what you find so compelling or enjoyable about the experience. If you haven’t had the opportunity or haven’t made the effort, think about changing that at first opportunity, even if you have to initiate the project. You’ll be glad you did.